It isn’t always inappropriate to take pleasure in witnessing a good verbal smackdown. We delight in a brutal – but clever – delivery that takes a deserving someone down a peg. Where it becomes unbefitting is when it relates to the brutal murder of a toddler by her own parents.
As evidenced by the enduring success of television judges like Judge Judy, who take obvious pleasure in delivering a verbal smackdown to a litigant, we enjoy watching judges let offenders know just how awful they are. With style.
The pleasure of watching television judges excoriate deserving litigants has even spilled over into real life courtrooms, including the tape of an absurd argument between a Georgia judge and a contentious defendant that not only went viral, but was later reenacted, animated, and posted online.
That likely explains why people are cheering on Detroit Judge Shannon Holmes and her viral “verbal smackdown” of Jasmine Gordon, 24, and Clifford Daniel Thomas, 33, the abusive parents of 3-year-old Jamila Smith, whom they abused so viciously that it led to her death.
Just take a look at what Judge Holmes as to say about these two:
Pathologists determined that at the time of her death, Jamila had suffered from cranial bleeding, stomach bleeding, and a torn pancreas for about seven days before she finally died. She would have been in “extreme pain” from the pancreatic injury alone, according to the testimony of the medical examiner.
After neglecting the child’s injuries for so long, Gordon finally took her to the hospital, where she refused to answer the medical technician’s question about what had happened to her daughter or how it happened. Gordon ultimately suggested that Jamila needed to be treated for “self-inflicted” injuries because she “ran into a wall.”
To no one’s surprise, medical investigators determined that Jamila suffered no “self-inflicted” injuries. In fact, examinations revealed likely abuse: “There was an abrasion on the right arm, there were healing abrasions on the forehead, the right temple region, the chest, the upper back and lower back,” according to Dr. Kilak Kesha, a forensic pathologist with the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office who examined Jamila.
According to John McWilliams, to one of Gordon’s defense attorneys, “There are some very serious questions as to whether this child had some serious medical problems. Which may, in fact, have resulted in the misdiagnosis and misunderstanding that this was child abuse.”
But Judge Holmes was not having it.
“The medical examiner went on to testify that any parent or guardian – and I am going to add a side bar, ‘in their right mind, — would have known that this child was sick and needed medical attention,” Holmes said.
Both Gordon and Thomas have been charged with felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree child abuse. Thomas has resisting and obstructing a police officer added to his list of charges.
After reviewing the case against Gordon and Thomas, it’s relieving to hear Judge Holmes voice the anger and disgust people naturally feel towards them. It’s easy to listen to her words and think, “Yes, you tell ‘em, Judge Shannon.” But when it comes to what you expect out of a judge, is sass one of them?
The video ends with Judge Holmes saying that she wishes the defendants “all the very best,” before adding, “and I’m really being sarcastic.” It’s undoubtedly entertaining, but it’s also unprofessional and unbecoming of what society should expect from a judge. Her comments may be emotionally appropriate, they’re certainly entertaining, but in a court of law, the subject should be the case, never the judge.